Carolyn Rae Muessman embarked on her professional journey by earning a Bachelor of Science in biology and chemistry from Illinois State University in 1982. Obtaining a master’s degree in education from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 1985, she completed further coursework at both Michigan State University and the University of Michigan. She went on to spend 30 years as a teacher with Lakeview High School in Michigan, where she taught biology and chemistry and also served as the athletic director and assistant principal until her retirement in 2012. Not intending to retire when she did, after her mother passed in 2011, Ms. Muessman decided it was time to retire so that she could help her father on the family farm.
A fourth-generation farmer, Ms. Muessman is today the owner of Maple Crest Farm, a historic farm that has been in the family since her grandfather built a barn on the property in 1852. The original house on the property dates to 1807, and a new farmhouse was later built in 1892. During her high school years, Ms. Muessman helped to raise their livestock, which included sheep, cattle and horses, and since she has taken over the farm, her duties include growing soybeans, raising honeybees, and breeding and training dogs. She got her start in dog training during her time as an assistant principal, because there was an incident where a student was suspected of selling drugs, but there was no narcotics dog available to investigate. Her very first dog, Brutus, stayed with her as a fixture in her classroom until her retirement.
For the past 15 years, Ms. Muessman has dedicated her time to breeding and training Dutch shepherd dogs, which are a cross between the German shepherd and the Malinois. She works with the military and local and state police to provide narcotics detection dogs, and her dogs have also gained recognition for their search and rescue work. One of her dogs, Jim, was featured on TV after he saved a 4-year-old child following an earthquake in Mexico by insisting on staying and digging at a location that rescue workers had not thought was a viable place to look for survivors. Another one of Ms. Muessman’s dogs is an “avalanche angel,” who does search and rescue in the mountains, and there is also one who works in Alaska checking for leaks in oil pipelines.
Ms. Muessman’s goal is to train dogs with exceptional drives that are determined to do their job. However, this is not always an easy task, and sometimes a dog simply doesn’t have the right temperament for the job being asked of them. Taking up to four years to train a dog, she is always upfront and honest with her clients when problems arise. Her current dogs are Ellis, Ms. Blue, Skeeter, and the newest addition to the family, Mae, who will be their new breeder when she is old enough. In all of her professional endeavors, Ms. Muessman has made a name for herself through her motivation to see others succeed, be that her dogs or the students she taught.
Looking toward the future, Ms. Muessman intends to involve herself further with the Daughters of the American Revolution, where she has been a member for many years. She feels strongly about ancestry and legacy, given her family’s history. Most notably, her mother’s family, whose last name was Ellis, was the family for which Ellis Island was named. Over the years, Ms. Muessman has also been an active volunteer with several local charities and organizations.
Attributing much of her success to her passion, drive and emphasis on continued learning, Ms. Muessman has been the recipient of a number of honors and accolades throughout her endeavors. She is particularly proud of her achievements as a science educator, which is a very male-dominated field, as are the positions of assistant principal and athletic director. For her excellence, Ms. Muessman was presented with a Teacher of the Year Award in 1997.